This Naval Helicopter History Timeline is sourced using historical data and pictures from “THE NAVAL HELICOPTER-HIGHLIGHTS IN NAVAL HELICOPTER HISTORY,” written by CAPT Vincent C. Secades USN (Ret), Published by Naval Helicopter Association, Coronado, California, 2nd Edition June 2012.
NAVAL HELICOPTER HISTORY TIMELINE 400BC till 1939
Chinese Top-400 BC
Chinese develop a vertical flying top that was used as a child’s toy.
1483 Leonardo de Vinci – Sketched the “Helical Air Screw”
1483 Leonardo de Vinci – Sketched the “Helical Air Screw” the most advanced plans of the period for a helicopter.
1800-1900 OTHERS in the pursuit vertical flight
1800-1900 OTHERS in the pursuit vertical flight: Sir George Cayley, Thomas Edison, Wilbur & Orville Wright, Paul Cornu, Juan de la Cierva, Corradino D’ Ascanio, Heinrich Focke, and more.
1912 Early Navy Interest
1912-An early, if limited, interest in the helicopter was shown as the Secretary of the Navy authorized expenditure of not more than $50 for developing models of a helicopter design proposed by Chief Machinist’s Mate F. E. Nelson of West Virginia (Armored Cruiser No. 5). The Secretary’s accompanying policy implication was followed with a few exceptions for the next 30 years: “The Department recognizes the value of the helicopter principle in the design of naval aircraft and is following closely the efforts of others in this direction.”
1917 Policy Regarding Helicopter Development
1917 The policy regarding helicopter development was established by the Secretaries of the War and Navy Departments on the basis of recommendations made by the Joint Technical Board on Aircraft. Basically, need for improvements in power plants and propellers was recognized as necessary if a successful helicopter was to be obtained, but actual support of development efforts was to be limited to moral encouragement until a vendor had demonstrated a helicopter of military value.
First U.S. Navy Contract for Rotary Wing Aircraft
January 22, 1931. – The U.S. Navy ordered three XOP-1 autogiro prototypes from Pitcairn Aircraft Co., to be evaluated for naval service. This was the in history.
First U.S. Navy Rotary Wing Aircraft Landing and Take Off from a Ship at Sea
September 23, 1931. – LT Alfred M. Pride, USN, piloted an XOP-1 in the first rotary wing aircraft landing and take off from a ship at sea, USS Langley (CV-1).
First U.S. Navy Contract to Produce an Autogiro without Fixed Wings and Ailerons
March 12, 1935. – The Navy awarded Pitcairn another contract to produce an autogiro without fixed wings and ailerons. The XOP-2 was the first Navy rotary wing aircraft without fixed wings. This modification, made possible by the implementation of cyclic control of the rotor blades pitch angle, greatly improved controllability at slow airspeeds.
The XOZ-1, BuNo A8602, an Autogiro built for the Navy by Pennsylvania Aircraft Syndicate
.August 9, 1937. – The XOZ-1, BuNo A8602, an autogiro built for the Navy by Pennsylvania Aircraft Syndicate, performed demonstration flights, including water landings and take-offs. This autogiro was a modified N2Y-1 tandem-seat biplane trainer.
The overall results of evaluations during the 1930s convinced the Navy hierarchy that the autogiro could not satisfactorily meet naval requirements. The Navy needed a hovering vehicle. It would have to wait a few more years before that need could be fulfilled.
Inter-Agency was creaCed to Administer the Rotary Wing Development Program
June 30, 1938. – An Inter-Agency was created to administer the rotary wing development program funded by the Dorsey Act. CDR William J. Kossler, USCG, represented the Coast Guard. He would become one of the “Founding Fathers” of helicopter naval aviation.
The U.S. Army Awarded a Contract to Build an Experimental Helicopter, the XR-1
July 19, 1940. – The U.S. Army Material Division awarded Platt-LePage Aircraft Co. a contract to build an experimental helicopter, the XR-1, a twin-side-by-side-rotors design based on the technology of the German Focke-Wulf Fw-61. This was the second helicopter contract awarded by the U.S. military; the first, awarded by the Army to the Russian émigré George de Bothezat in 1921, had failed to produce a practical helicopter.